Guerrilla Brightenings, Joanna NisselFollows house style for jacket design. Against the Grain pamphlets have a coloured area that slices a diagonal from about one inch below top righhand corner, across to about two inches away from the bottom left hand corner. So there's a large salmon pink triangle here. All text is black and left justified in the white area, top left. The heading is in small caps with a fairly thick black line beneath it. Below this the name of the author in lower case. The publisher's logo appears bottom left.

Against the Grain Poetry Press, 2022     £6.00

Brightened with colour

Colour features strongly in Guerrilla Brightenings. The first poem, ‘Hove Lawns to Brighton Pier – March’, opens delicately:

and every morning     the beach
the dawn     pale as pink innards of seashells
getting earlier now

And the third stanza has:

the pebbles in taupe and ivory and charcoal
and some     almost mustard as the sun rises

Later in the poem, the ocean is first ‘jade’ and then, when the tide turns, ‘becomes glassy and oh the blue   blue   the blue of it’. The poet recounts the way the light changes in ‘It’s the only time I see them’: ‘from fragile pinks, pale blues to brash cerulean and shamrock lawns’.

A ‘master of rigs’ influenced the poet’s father and we hear of ‘guerrilla brightenings’ in ‘The Long Man of Wilmington’:

Skinny light-man   master of rigs
he infiltrated forests    lined the branches
with fairy lights     tubes of colour    devils    saints

Nissel offers the worlds of David Bowie, and Noel Fielding in the prose poem ‘Did I Say Starlight?’: ‘a land of discoballs and rainbow shards’. By way of contrast to that urban tone, the poem that follows, ‘Look at Me’, sees a relationship through the medium of an orchid, describing a bud as:

A knuckle of a thing, tiny,
barely a suggestion of green.

That poem’s final image is vivid:

I thought of how thrilled you’d have been
of the shock of cerise in each centre,
like the bright silk lining of a twill coat.

Other visually-striking images include Anne Boleyn’s ‘Shivering grey velvet’ in ‘Time Travel’, and the ‘burnt umber of red helianthus’ in ‘On rediscovering a favourite dress’. In the final poem, ‘Hove Lawns to Portslade — April’, the poet returns to the beach setting of the first poem. This time kayaks and canoes are ‘glazed bright    as boiled sweets’. The reader shares the moment of being bathed in light:

I need to turn back     Oh   give me five more minutes
in this glorious light        I was not prepared
for a love like this

Colour permeates this pamphlet and really lit up my enjoyment of the poems.

Sue Wallace-Shaddad